Let The Sun Shine In A New Solarium Or Greenhouse

October 13, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

Just because we are approaching the winter months is no reason to stop relaxing in the garden. Just bring it indoors -- into your greenhouse or solarium, that is.

A properly designed solar room can be anideal way to keep up the spirits of both people and plants.

For the average citizen who doesn't have access to either a college's department of agriculture or the resources of a well-stocked professional plant nursery, greenhouses come in two varieties -- the traditional greenhouse and the solarium.

Most solar structures at this level tend to be solaria, which are better suited to a combination of the interests of people and plants at a reasonable cost. They are primarily places for people, and then for plants, serving in many cases as an extension of the living room.

Greenhouses are primarily for plants. This, after all, is its traditional purpose -- to allow for the growing of plants indoors during inclement and unseasonable weather in a controlled environment.

Heat, light, ventilation and theamount of water or moisture all need to be carefully controlled to keep the plants vital and healthy.

In hotter or drier climates, a room or house that uses heat in such a way is almost totally solar-powered, with the attendant benefits in the reduced need for other formsof energy, such as electricity or gas. There would be enough heat stored in that structure to keep it above freezing at night.

Unfortunately here in Maryland, there isn't enough sun during the winter to store up enough heat in a solar structure. The climate requires that both types of rooms have some additional energy support to control all those aforementioned factors.

Also, care must be taken at night that the heat won't be lost, or at least that cold will not enter thehouse the same way the heat did. To do this, separate the solarium or greenhouse from the rest of the house with doors or thermal curtains.

In addition, if one doesn't heat the solarium or greenhouse at night, especially during the cold months, plants can't live in it.

Notwithstanding, a greenhouse or a solarium still can be fairly cost-effective.

On sunny days in the winter, enough heat is generated to be pumped throughout the house, reducing or eliminating the need for other sources of heat. This can reduce energy costs by roughly 25 percent.

Speaking of costs, the price of building this type of room depends on the ambitions of the builder.

Of necessity, a great deal of glass is required to let in the sun. The more efficient the glass is in processing light and heat, the less is required in terms ofsecondary energy sources.

Of course, the cost of the glass used in a solar room is linked to its energy efficiency, but it is a one-time expense that may be considered worth it in terms of subsequent energy reduction, or the enjoyment one gets from sitting in a warm and comfortable room -- and watching the neighbors shovel snow.

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